Introduction Words are used to represent things and experiences in the real or imagined world.

Different words can be used to describe the same thing or experience. Definition A referent is the concrete object or concept that is designated by a word or expression. A referent is an object, action, state, relationship, or attribute in the referential realm. Example Historically, there was only one person called George Washington, the first president of the United States. He can be referred to in a text in many ways, such as
   

the president Mr. Washington he, or even my friend.

Even though there are many ways to talk about him, there is only one referent in the referential realm. Definition A proposition is that part of the meaning of a clause or sentence that is constant, despite changes in such things as the voice or illocutionary force of the clause. A proposition may be related to other units of its kind through interpropositional relations, such as temporal relations and logical relations. Discussion The meaning of the term proposition is extended by some analysts to include the meaning content of units within the clause. Example: The tall, stately building fell is said to express propositions corresponding to the following:  "The building is tall."  "The building is stately."  "The building fell." Definition A presupposition is background belief, relating to an utterance, that
  

must be mutually known or assumed by the speaker and addressee for the utterance to be considered appropriate in context generally will remain a necessary assumption whether the utterance is placed in the form of an assertion, denial, or question, and can generally be associated with a specific lexical item or grammatical feature (presupposition trigger) in the utterance.  The utterance John regrets that he stopped doing linguistics before he left Cambridge has the following presuppositions:  There is someone uniquely identifiable to speaker and addressee as John.

Examples (English)

   

John stopped doing linguistics before he left Cambridge. John was doing linguistics before he left Cambridge. John left Cambridge. John had been at Cambridge.

Definition: The presence of two or more possible meanings within a single word. Compare to syntactic ambiguity. See also:  Ambiguity  Amphiboly  Context  Crash Blossom  Distinctio  Homophones  Homographs  Polysemy  Psycholinguistics  Pun

Examples and Observations:
   

The Rabbi married my sister. She is looking for a match. The fisherman went to the bank. "[C]ontext is highly relevant to this part of the meaning of utterances. . . . For example They passed the port at midnight is lexically ambiguous. However, it would normally be clear in a given context which of the two homonyms, 'port' ('harbor') or 'port' ('kind of fortified wine'), is being used." --and also which sense of the polysemous verb 'pass' is intended." (John Lyons, Linguistic Semantics: An Introduction. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995)

"The following example, taken from Johnson-Laird (1983), illustrates two important characteristics of lexical ambiguity: The plane banked just before landing, but then the pilot lost control. The strip on the field runs for only the barest of yards and the plane just twisted out of the turn before shooting into the ground. First, that this passage is not particularly difficult to understand in spite of the fact that all of its content words are ambiguous suggests that ambiguity is unlikely to invoke special resource-demanding processing mechanisms but rather is handled as a byproduct of normal comprehension. Second, there are a number of ways in which a word can be ambiguous. The word plane, for example, has several noun meanings, and it can also be used as a verb. The word twisted could be an adjective and is also morphologically ambiguous between the past tense and participial forms of the verb to twist." (Patrizia Tabossi et al., "Semantic Effects on Syntactic Ambiguity Resolution" in Attention and Performance XV, ed. by C. Umiltà and M. Moscovitch. MIT Press, 1994) Definition: The presence of two or more possible meanings in any passage. Also, a fallacy in which the same term is used in more than one way. Adjective: ambiguous.

See also:  Lexical Ambiguity  Syntactic Ambiguity
     

Amphiboly Crash Blossom Double Entendre Equivocation Garden-Path Sentence Polysemy

From the Latin, "wandering about"

Examples and Observations:
  

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed meeting your husband. We saw her duck. Roy Rogers: More hay, Trigger? Trigger: No thanks, Roy, I'm stuffed! Pentagon Plans Swell Deficit (newspaper headline) I can't recommend this book too highly. "An ambiguity, in ordinary speech, means something very pronounced, and as a rule witty or deceitful. I propose to use the word in an extended sense: any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language. . . . "We call it ambiguous, I think, when we recognize that there could be a puzzle as to what the author meant, in that alternative views might be taken without sheer misreading. If a pun is quite obvious it would not be called ambiguous, because there is no room for puzzling. But if an irony is calculated to deceive a section of its readers, I think it would ordinarily be called ambiguous." (William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity, 1947)

  

"Leahy Wants FBI to Help Corrupt Iraqi Police Force" (headline at, December 2006)  Prostitutes Appeal to Pope (newspaper headline)  Union Demands Increased Unemployment (newspaper headline)  "Thanks for dinner. I’ve never seen potatoes cooked like that before." (Jonah Baldwin in the film Sleepless in Seattle, 1993)  "Quintilian uses amphibolia ( to mean 'ambiguity,' and tells us (Vii.ix.1) that its species are innumerable; among them, presumably, are Pun and Irony." (Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Univ. of California Press, 1991) Pronunciation: am-big-YOU-it-tee Definition: The presence of two or more possible meanings within a single sentence or sequence of words. Compare with lexical ambiguity. See also:  Ambiguity  Amphiboly

      

Crash Blossom Garden-Path Sentence Syntax The professor said on Monday he would give an exam. The chicken is ready to eat. Visiting relatives can be boring. "Some sentences are syntactically ambiguous at the global level, in which case the whole sentence has two or more possible interpretations. For example, 'They are cooking apples' is ambiguous because it may or may not mean that apples are being cooked. . . . "One of the ways in which listeners work out the syntactic or grammatical structure of spoken sentences is by using prosodic cues in the form of stress, intonation, and so on. For example, in the ambiguous sentence 'The old men and women sat on the bench,' the women may or may not be old. If the women are not old, then the spoken duration of word 'men' will be relatively long and the stressed syllable in 'women' will have a steep rise in speech contour. Neither of these prosodic features will be present if the sentence means the women are old." (M. Eysenck and M. Keane, Cognitive Psychology. Taylor & Francis, 2005) "Syntactic ambiguity occurs when a sequence of words can be structured in alternative ways that are consistent with the syntax of the language. For instance, . . . [this word group] is ambiguous: (1) a. John told the woman that Bill was dating. . . . In 1a, "that Bill was dating" could either be a relative clause (as in 'John told the woman that Bill was dating a lie') or a sentence complement (as in 'John told the woman that Bill was dating a liar')." (Patrizia Tabossi et al., "Semantic Effects on Syntactic Ambiguity Resolution" in Attention and Performance XV, ed. by C. Umiltà. MIT Press, 1994)

Examples and Observations:

Polysemy where a word as a related number of meanings i.e.: mouth 1. pat of a river 2. entrance of a cave 3. part of the body

Mole 1. a small burrowing mammal 2. consequently, there are several different entities called moles (see the Mole disambiguation page). Although these refer to different things, their names derive from 1. :e.g. A Mole burrows for information hoping to go undetected. Bank 1. a financial institution 2. the building where a financial institution offers services 3. a synonym for 'rely upon' (e.g. "I'm your friend, you can bank on me"). It is different, but related, as it derives from the theme of security initiated by 1

However: a river bank is a homonym to 1 and 2, as they do not share etymologies. It is a completely different meaning. River bed, though, is polysemous with the beds on which people sleep. Book 1. a bound collection of pages 2. a text reproduced and distributed (thus, someone who has read the same text on a computer has read the same book as someone who had the actual paper volume) 3. to make an action or event a matter of record (e.g. "Unable to book a hotel room, a man sneaked into a nearby private residence where police arrested him and later booked him for unlawful entry.") Milk The verb milk (e.g. "he's milking it for all he can get") derives from the process of obtaining milk. Wood 1. a piece of a tree 2. a geographical area with many trees 3. an erection Crane 1. a bird 2. a type of construction equipment
Homonymy Where similarity of pronunciation or spelling is accidental (etimology supports this idea) i.e.: bank 1. he ground beside a iver 2. a financial instituion

Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. These include:  Homographs (literally "same writing") are usually defined as words that share the same spelling, regardless of how they are pronounced.[note 1] If they are pronounced the same then they are also homophones (and homonyms) – for example, bark (the sound of a dog) and bark (the skin of a tree). If they are pronounced differently then

they are also heteronyms – for example, bow (the front of a ship) and bow (a type of knot). Homophones (literally "same sound") are usually defined as words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of how they are spelled.[note 2] If they are spelled the same then they are also homographs (and homonyms); if they are spelled differently then they are also heterographs (literally "different writing"). Homographic examples include rose (flower) and rose (past tense of rise). Heterographic examples include to, too, two, and there, their, they’re. Heteronyms (literally "different name") are the subset of homographs (words that share the same spelling) that have different pronunciations (and meanings).[note 3] That is, they are homographs which are not homophones. Such words include desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region); row (to argue or an argument) and row (as in to row a boat or a row of seats - a pair of homophones). Heteronyms are also sometimes called heterophones (literally "different sound"). Polysemes are words with the same spelling and distinct but related meanings. The distinction between polysemy and homonymy is often subtle and subjective, and not all sources consider polysemous words to be homonyms. Words such as mouth, meaning either the orifice on one's face, or the opening of a cave or river, are polysemous and may or may not be considered homonyms. Capitonyms are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings when capitalized (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words include polish (to make shiny) and Polish (from Poland); march (organized, uniformed, steady and rhythmic walking forward) and March (the third month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar). However, both polish or march at the beginning of sentences still need to be capitalized.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful